Thursday 24 August 2017

What can you do to help those affected by the conflict in Syria? And will it make a difference?

By Edward Dracott

We spoke with CEO of International Rescue Committee David Miliband and the charity War Child, to find out.

Six years since it began, the war in Syria is still producing the same problems for its people, displacing millions and maiming or killing hundreds of thousands more.

The conflict is indiscriminate and according to international charity War Child, has killed 55,000 children – one every hour – since it began. It has displaced 2.3 million more and 400,000 still remain besieged in towns and cities across the country.

So on a personal and national level what can we in the West do to help? And will our action make a difference?

What can you do?

On a personal level, the most important thing you can do is raise awareness for the cause and there are four main ways you can do this.

1. Join a campaign.

There are a wealth of charities out there trying to help the people in Syria, including Amnesty International, Oxfam and Unicef. These bodies need money to function and people to give their campaigns a voice.

For example, the video below is from War Child, promoting Enough Is Enough – their campaign to stop children being targeted in war and ensure they receive aid, protection and education.

2. Use social media.

Videos such as those above can easily be found on the social media pages of charities, or their websites and ensuring their message is shared is vital.

Whether it is on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram sharing such content gives it a larger audience – and voicing your own concerns, be they over refugees or war crimes, brings them into the public conversation and increases the political will for action.

3. Send a letter to your MP.

Encouraging politicians to take action is what sharing a cause is really all about but sending a direct message to them is even better.

You can send a letter to your Member of Parliament by addressing it to “(Insert MP’s name), House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA” alternatively you can email them by visiting the government’s Directory of MPs.

4. Keep the conflict at the front of your mind.

This might seem obvious, but making sure you’re well informed about the conflict and will keep you interested and enhance your urge to help.

Does it make a difference?

In a word, yes. Aid organisations run on donations, while government funding is much more likely if there is a political impetus to help – encouraged by public feeling.

David Miliband is a name you may recognise from Labour Party leadership contests past. Now head of the International Rescue Committee, the former foreign secretary oversees humanitarian relief in more than 40 war-effected countries. He believes the British people’s efforts have achieved a great deal in the aid they have given to Syria – paid for through either their own pockets or taxes.

“I see every day the impact that the Department for International Development (DfID) makes around the world,” said Miliband. “I see every day the impact that British donations make, and people should take confidence from the fact that this is an action that can really make a difference.

“I think that’s an important message, as we bemoan some of the international politics of the Syria crisis, we should recognise that humanitarian action has the capacity to save lives.”

Does more need to be done?

Although aid offerings have been great, it’s estimated 11 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of the conflict, and in 2016 the United Nations estimated 400,000 people have been killed.

Such large scale devastation needs significant help, and some organisations don’t think the West is doing enough. Colin Walker, Head of Policy and Advocacy at War Child UK, believes much more can be done to help children involved in conflict.

“The international community has not fulfilled the bold pledges it has made to help Syria’s children,” he said. “Financial promises must be kept, and host countries must ensure that every child has access to quality education. The international community also has an obligation to safeguard every child refugee – regardless of where they have come from.”

“The conflict in Syria has now been running for as long as World War II, yet the conflict continues to rage on,” said Walker. “The international community must put all its energies into securing an immediate end to the conflict, and a lasting peace.”

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